Botswana anthrax kills zebras, jumbos

Veterinary officials in the region said that the disease has already killed hundreds of animals in the Chobe National but has quickly spread into Namibia.

Frank Chitate, state Veterinary officer for the Caprivi region told The Southern Times that the disease had not yet spread to domestic animals but had by Wednesday killed 20 zebras, 10 elephants and two buffalos adding that the figure of dead wild animals could be higher.

No other animal species have so far died but Chitate said that predators such as lions, vultures, jackals and hyena may feed on the flesh of dead animals.

Chitate said that six teams had been deployed in the area in a sweeping vaccination programme of domesticated animals.

Chitate also said that officers from the ministry of environment and tourism, nature conservation department had also been deploying to burn the carcasses of dead wild animals.

The veterinary officer assured the nation that the outbreak had not spread to domestic animals but said they were not taking any chances, since it is a second outbreak. The first one was in 2004.

In Botswana, officials also said that a mass vaccination is currently underway.

“In Botswana we are told a big number of wild animals have died but here the major difficulty we are facing in containing the outbreak is the free roaming of wild animals,” Chitate said.

Chobe National Park is one of Botswana’s largest wildlife conservation area and it borders Namibia.

The park is a major tourism draw in Botswana, luring tourists interested in game viewing because of its abundant wildlife, including buffalo, elephants and lions.

“It also appears that the environment is already contaminated. We had a big outbreak in 2004 and the viruses can lie dormant in the soil and recur from time to time,” Chitate said.

Efforts to stem the spread of the disease, which affects wild as well as domesticated animals have proved difficult with the unchecked cross border movement of wild animals.

Veterinary experts say that cattle contract the disease from the grasslands they share with herds of free roaming buffalo, elephants, zebra and other herbivores.

Clinical signs of the disease occur when spores enter the body, germinate, multiply and release toxins.

Analysts say that the incubation period of natural infection in animals is typically three to seven days with a range of one to 14 days.

“The difficult part is wildlife because of uncontrolled movement, the challenge is the movement of game and we unfortunately cannot control it,” Chitate said.

In cattle and sheep, the course of illness may last about two hours, veterinary experts say.

One suspected case of anthrax attack on human beings has also been reported and the victim is reportedly admitted at Katima Mulilo state hospital.

He also said that they would combine the exercise with an anti-rabies campaign, which he said is also a cross border disease.

“Time and again we receive cases of rabies in the region and when we do campaign for anthrac, we also do the same for rabies,” Chitate said.

“We urge farmers not to eat any carcass just in case the animal died from anthrax,” he added.

Athrax was first reported in the Caprivi region in 2004 and subsequently in 2005 when hundreds of cattle perished.

October 2006
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